BY PETE NAKOS
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio women's basketball team held off Northern Illinois on Wednesday evening inside the Convocation Center. The 77-75 victory was full of exciting moments, and Pete Nakos picked out 15 of them to match the 15 three-pointers the Bobcats drained.
1. The Bobcats finally found their way to success from beyond the arc Wednesday night. But, it really all clicked together in the third quarter when Ohio hit six 3-pointers, totaling 26 points in the quarter along. For the better part of the season, the Bobcats have been relying heavily on their defensive play, but it all came together.
2. But, without the 3-point success the Bobcats had, they could've been looking at a completely different outcome. Ohio beat Northern Illinois 77-75 thanks to a steal and layup from Cierra Hooks with two seconds left. The Bobcats led as much as eight with 1:52 left in the game, but missed free-throws led to the tight game.
3. In total Ohio finished the night with 15 3-pointers, 12 combined from guards Dominique Doseck and Katie Barker. The two perimeter threats had their best games of the year to date, specifically Barker. She finished with 24 points, a career-high, and eight 3-pointers, which ties the record for most made in The Convo during coach Bob Boldon's time at Ohio. The Huskies on the other hand just made five 3-pointers. Boldon said that he had been waiting for six weeks for something like this to happen for Ohio. Well, it sure did.
4. "I just felt good in warmups," Barker said I've been shooting a lot more in practices. "It feels really good to break the seal a little bit, get some shots going. It's more preparation leading up to the game, in practice, getting more game-like shots. It felt good hitting my first three shots. As a shooter, if you hit your first three shots, or your first shot."
5. Hooks has been working closely with starting point guard Taylor Agler and it showed when she scored the game-winning layup, an example of mental toughness that not many true freshmen would show. Agler, the lone senior on this team, tallied 12 assists on the night, a career-high.
7. Boldon on Hooks and Agler: "It's been huge. Cece couldn't ask for a better role model in Taylor because Taylor has no ego. Taylor will tell you at times that Cece is better at some things than her. You don't find that in a lot of 21 and 22 year old kid. She's completely unselfish and she just wants this team to win."
8. The turnover margin continues to help Ohio win games and it's starting to show nationally. It continues to hold the No. 2 spot in NCAA in Turnover Margin at 10.00. The Bobcats also sit third in turnovers forced (24.06), sixth for steals per game (13.3), ninth in steals (239). Hooks is Top 20 in steals and steals per game. All of this comes back to the weak shooting for the Bobcats — with more consistent shooting and a stingy defense they won't be a team many will want to play come tourney time.
9. "We really depend on our defense," Agler said. "That's all we've had to rely on, that and our effort."
10. Another important takeaway: after Wednesday night's outcome, Ohio is now 11-8 and 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference, sitting at second in the East Division and 1.5 games behind. It's in a position few thought the Bobcats would be in, especially factoring in the five new freshmen they welcomed. Hooks and Gabby Burris continue to be bright spots in the new group — the two are two of the top four scorers on the team.
11. Boldon on the growth of the freshmen class: "Our freshman just keep getting better and better. The more they see it, the more they understand it. There's a very exciting future at Ohio, but our concern is the now, and I'm happy we're playing well now."
12. Not many faces returned on either side of the matchup, but Wednesday night was the first meeting of the two teams in the 2017-18 season. The last time the two met was in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals, when the Bobcats lost a 21-point lead, leaving quite a bitter taste in their mouths. Let's just say Wednesday's win was revenge for some.
13. The win moved Boldon closer to two coaching milestones. Now with 94 wins at Ohio, Boldon needs six more victories to hit 100 as the leader of the Bobcats. Only one other coach in program history has reached 100 victories as a Bobcat. Boldon is also seven wins away from hitting 200 in his coaching career.
14. When I suggested to Boldon it was the most 3-pointers a player had hit in recent memory, he was quick to correct me with a smile that Kiyanna Black made 10 at Toledo in the 2015-16 season. Those days aren't that far behind.
15. Wednesday night was the second time this season that the Bobcats won a game off of a steal and a layup as time expired. The last time was Nov. 22 at Marshall and both were by Hooks.